Jean-François Joly de Fleury
|Director-General of the Royal Treasury|
1781-MAY-19 – 1783-NOV-03
|Preceded by||Jacques Necker|
|Succeeded by||Charles Alexandre de Calonne|
|Born||7 June 1718|
|Died||12 December 1802 (aged 84)|
|Spouse(s)||Marie Marguerite Jogues de Villery|
Jean-François Joly de Fleury (1710-1787) was a minor figure serving in the French government as finance minister within a decade of the French Revolution. He was a member of the influential Joly de Fleury family.
He was the son of Guillaume-François Joly de Fleury, Procurator General of the Parlement of Paris and of Marie Francoise Le Maistre. His brothers were Guillaume-François-Louis Joly de Fleury (1710-1787) who succeeded their father in his post as Procurator General, and Joseph Omer Joly de Fleury who may best be known for his unjust prosecution of Lally Tollendal on charges of treason.
Fleury's predecessor was Jacques Necker, the Swiss wunderkind who was brought into the French ministry at a time of great debt in 1777. By the time Necker left in 1781, two things had occurred that exacerbated the crisis growing in the coffers of King Louis XVI of France.
First, Necker had published the Compte rendu au roi, a "full" accounting of the King's finances--which showed that the King's budget was strong given the "ordinary" expenses. What this document failed to show were the "extraordinary" expenses--including massive debts to pay for the American Revolutionary War. This type of publication was previously unheard of in an absolute monarchy and was extremely popular with the people.
The second problem was that Necker had seen the addition of massive debts on behalf of the British colonies to pay for their revolutionary war. These debts were so deep that Necker was having trouble paying the interest on them in addition to all the other expenses for which he had to account.
So when Fleury took over in 1781, he saw the full and complete version of the books and made several decisions that were unpopular. To correct the problems, he took three steps to stop the financial bleeding:
Because his predecessor had published a book that was an incomplete version of the King's finances, Fleury had a difficult time making his case because members of government would simply point to their copy of the Compte rendu and decry him a liar. Given the unpopularity of his taxes among the wealthy of France and his angering of the King's personal courtiers, eventually Fleury was forced to resign his position in 1783. He was replaced by Charles Alexandre de Calonne.
Though a minor figure, Fleury was one in a series of ministers who acted as a stepping stone toward the French Revolution. His taxes and curtailing of gifts were both rescinded immediately after his departure, but the selling of venal offices continued -- trading short-term bandages for long-term solutions to the Monarchy's debt crises.